Why SMSC is intrinsic to primary and early years education

Kings Hill School were thrillled to receive a Gold SMSC Quality Mark award recently. In this informative blog, their headteacher Alice Early explains what the verification meant to them and why SMSC is so high on the agenda.


What is SMSC? This is a question that parents and teachers ask a lot. It is often mistaken in schools for something soft, unidentifiable, lacking in importance, “an add-on” or nondescript. Often, we even get jumbled with the letters and what they stand for. So here is a summary for avoidance of doubt.

Spiritual: this should not be confused with religion – it is about having a fascination of the wider world.

Moral: This is about learning right from wrong, respect for the law and understanding the consequences of behaviour

Social: This is learning about how to interact with others, respect and cooperation and the ability to engage

Cultural: This is learning to appreciate and know different cultures and traditions

SMSC is integral to every human being’s development. It ensures that we become individuals with integrity, social conscience and an appreciation for the world around us. It enables us to have a strong moral compass with a good understanding of right and wrong, and be able to make decisions that consider others.

If SMSC is taught well, it contributes to a pupil’s overall personal development and their ability to be confident and articulate. This in turn leads to success and opens doors to their future.


Concrete examples

This still might not give clarity so lets consider some concrete examples of what SMSC is.

  • At a recent Talking Point assembly, children were discussing ‘Does the law protect our heritage’. This is an example of cultural and moral development.
  • In the Archeology Committee, children were fascinated to learn about the Mayans and primary sources using artefacts from the Maidstone Museum. This is an example of cultural and spiritual development.
  • The School Council are working collaboratively on an International Cook Book. This is an example of social and cultural development.
  • Children learnt about Saint-Saens as the “Composer of the Month”. This is an example of cultural and spiritual development.
  • In EYFS children role-played different jobs that they want to do when they grow up. This is an example of social development.

If you think about it, there are examples of SMSC in everything that is taking place within a school on a daily basis. So does this mean School Leaders can leave SMSC to chance as it seems to happen naturally in many aspects of school life?

No. To develop SMSC within a school effectively so that there is tangible impact from the provision, it should not be overlooked as a wishy-washy extra. It must be embedded within the vision of the school, embodied by Senior Leaders and implemented and planned in a structured and purposeful way across the whole curriculum as well as in assemblies, trips, extracurricular clubs and pupil leadership.


Prioritise and integrate

SMSC needs to have the same high priority as a curriculum subject. It also needs the same principles of effective curriculum design.

  1. Integrated within ethos. SMSC should be an integral core purpose with a high priority from leaders. It should be central to the whole school ethos and embodied by all staff.
  2. Purposeful, Planned and Reviewed. SMSC provision needs to be planned and not left to chance. Building knowledge of SMSC is the same as building knowledge in a curriculum subject. It is also important to ensure it threads through all subjects and not just subjects that lend themselves more easily to SMSC such as RE. As Mary Myatt says, “It is a slippery element until we pay attention to what SMSC might encompass”.
  3. Communicated and Shared. SMSC should be shared and communicated with stakeholders, e.g. through newsletters. This builds a shared understanding and ensures its profile is sustained within your ethos.
  4. Pupil Ownership and Practise. The strongest impact of SMSC provision is when pupils can take ownership, e.g. through debate and discussion. Pupils need to be given the time to ‘practise’ and articulate their knowledge just as they would practise using knowledge learnt in other subjects.
  5. Inclusive. SMSC needs to be available for all. Leaders need to consider that everyone has a voice. Are wider curriculum opportunities accessible to all pupils?


Next steps

Interested in developing your SMSC provision? You can start by self-assessing with Young Citizens’ handy online self-review tool. Once you have established this initial review, you can apply for a visit from one of their trained representatives who can officially verify your SMSC educational offer.

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